Your Contingency Plan as a Barn Manager

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The majority of a horse barn manager’s day is spent making sure that the horses are fed and cared for, that lessons go off without a hitch, that the facility is clean and that clients are satisfied. This often requires the coordinated effort of staff, leaving little downtime for planning.

Credit: Thinkstock Horses and facilities need to be cared for 24/7/365, so know what your options are if a key person—including yourself—was unable to perform his or her job.

Credit: Thinkstock Horses and facilities need to be cared for 24/7/365, so know what your options are if a key person—including yourself—was unable to perform his or her job.

But what if, the riding instructor is in a car accident? Or, the staff member responsible for cleaning stalls quits at noon?

A contingency plan that considers these scenarios, or a multitude of other scenarios, can help you better prepare for the unexpected so that the stable can continue to function.

“Because a barn manager is caring for a living creature every day, all year round, contingency planning is really important,” said Laura M. Napoleone, of Lead Change Solutions, an equine consulting agency in Massachusetts.

Setting aside time to consider the unexpected and how to handle such a situation can be overwhelming. Napoleone offers some basic advice for getting started.

“Think about all of things that made you panic in the last six months,” she said.

Write a list of all those situations that made you panic. Then outline a plan for handling those in the future. When writing the plan, consider the likelihood or “risk” that particular scenario will occur again and create a plan that is appropriate to the severity of the risk.

“The best way to create a plan is to look at the past. It can help you figure out the future,” she said.

Also talk to others who own or manage barns or stables to see what their "disasters" have been, how they handled them and what you would do in the same situations.

Most importantly, communicate with the individual or individuals who are identified as "the one" for stepping in to take over on an emergency basis. “Talk to those individuals, even if they are family members, to make sure everyone is on the same page,” Napoleone said.

Once you create a contingency plan or a set of contingency plans, don’t put it on a shelf and forget about it. Set aside time every few months to review and revise as necessary.